Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kuliah untuk Ujian

Last week, my Elektronika Komunikasi class had their mid term exam. I was appointed to teach two parallel classes of that subject, and to my astonishment, the number of students who attended the test actually doubled from the amount I normally encounter during class! For this I sometimes feel that I have failed to be a good teacher.

I was a student too once, and I can admit that I (too) did kuliah just to pass the exams (and get wonderful grades too if possible). This was mostly true for all those boring mata kuliahs that 'they' forced me to take. Well, there wasn't actually too many of them, but there's always a few once in a while. Now back to the Elektronika Komunikasi mid term surprise. Fyuh, those students have crossed the limits, i think. I believe there's a discipline issue to be soughted out in here. I'll try to be more strict tomorrow in class.... (but I wonder how..)

I teach 4 and a half classes this semester (it's actually 5 in the first half, and 4 in the second). Among those, there are two subjects (three classes) which I'm not truely excited about, to be honest. It's not about their topics. But it's more about the general goal... In those classes, I started with a certain goal in mind. However, my goals totally changed as time progresses. Why? Because the students aren't like what I expected.

I'm an electronics teacher. Every subjects I teach this semester all have the word "elektronika" in them. But I'm often bothered with the fact that in some of my classes, the materials I'm supposed to teach will probably never going to be used in my student's future carreer. That's another reason why sometimes I change my goals, sometimes even the teaching materials. Maybe I worry too much.

For example, in "Teknologi Piranti Elektronika", my biggest concern to this day is whether this subject can actually be useful for the students or not, considering this class is for the information technology students, not the EE ones. Okay, maybe there's no doubt the subject will indeed be useful even for them, at least to give them insights. But then many other question arises.

How MUCH should they know? (I mean, how much should those IT students know about electronics?)

Are they OBLIGED to actually know about it? (is electronics a fundamentally important subject for IT guys?)

What's the best way to ASSESS their knowledge on this subject, given that this subject is taught only to give them INSIGHTS? (this class covers a very wide range of topics but not in a great detail. in other words, almost no maths or any design methods involved)

But, rules are rules, exams must still be held, whether I like it or not (i'm also sure everyone in the class would vote for no exam).

That was why I spent the last two meetings discussing question samples. Yup. It's my own style of PBL (problem based learning) LoL! Naah, just kidding. It's nothing like the real PBL. All I did was I gave them questions, then I answered them by myself. And this was all done in writing, where I wrote directly in front of the class (I was kind of hoping the students will pay attention to me, which they did :D)

However, by doing that, I've put myself into something that I actually dislike: "kuliah untuk ujian". Not "datang kuliah untuk ujian", but more like "memberi kuliah untuk persiapan mereka ujian." Call me too idealistic, but I really thought the main reason I give lectures is to actually teach students some very important materials that they would use, at least in one point of their lives, as engineers, of course. I put great hopes to these students that one day, they would actually use the materials they get in my classes to solve their own engineering-related problems. Or at least, I want the materials I teach to be useful for them in understanding other important things in other subjects. Or, this is probably the greatest among my hopes, I would really be happy if someone can actually get a PhD one day, inspired by a problem related the subjects I teach.... :D

Another case of "teaching for exams" crime that I've done is in those Elektronika Komunikasi classes. So far, we haven't touched practical electronics issues in adequate proportion. We've been stuck in theories, formulas, and question samples. And please bear in mind that these classes are for the Diploma school, where practice is more valued than theory (am i right?).

I've decided to take a different approach after this midterm exam. We'll have to see how it goes.